Recording of DeLoG, Cities Alliance and WIEGO Webinar on "Addressing Informality in Cities Through Inclusive Urban Governance" now available
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Looking at cities on a global scale reveals that “the informal is the normal”. Informality dominates both housing and local economies. As migration pressure on cities persists, this trend is increasing. Informality is thus a widespread element of urban life, albeit often an unacknowledged one. Informal workers are essential for the daily functioning of cities and keep important services going. At the same time, informality is synonymous with denial of the enjoyment of an extensive range of human rights and marginalisation on a massive scale.
The COVID-19 pandemic is focusing new attention on urban informality in a multi-faceted way. On the one hand, it dramatically underlines the significant vulnerabilities and increased risks that those living in informal settlements and working in informal economies – women in particular – encounter due to the outbreak and countermeasures. On the other, it seems to provide impulses for new approaches to urban informality in the future – approaches that break away from the status quo, based on the proper recognition, support and inclusion of communities living and working in informal contexts as integral parts of cities.
The webinar provided an opportunity to explore more thoroughly needs and potential for moves in new directions as well as signs for change that already exist. Participants were invited to identify steps and key aspects for improvement whereby the current context of the pandemic merely served as starting point. The ambition was to progress beyond narrow discussion of COVID-19 effects and responses. Consequently, the debate aimed to reflect on the vision of creating new governance mechanisms that can promote structural changes to overcome current urban segregation and inequalities through comprehensive transformation.
- Christine Mwelu Mutuku, Community Organiser and Federation Leader – Slum Dwellers International (SDI)
- Sonia Maria Dias, Waste Specialist – WIEGO
- Giulia Maci, Urban Specialist - Cities Alliance
Anacláudia Rossbach, Regional Manager at Cities Alliance Latin America and Caribbean, moderated the webinar. She emphasised the work Cities Alliance has been conducting in this field for over 20 years and the opportunity COVID-19 presents to leverage the urban governance agenda which encompasses informality of labour, land and migration and has to be addressed on a political and technical level. Participatory governance mechanisms as well as equal access and the right to the city are key aspects of inclusive urban governance and Anacláudia Rossbach and the panellists raised the following issues and discussed them further with the participants:
- What has been the situation of informal settlements since last March? Based on COVID-19 effects, how has the vulnerability of these communities been affected?
- Are there really new impulses for new approaches to urban informality in the future? Has this opened a dialogue that offers at least a little more hope?
- What can trigger structural change so that existing layers of inequalities are reduced and integral approaches to city development promoted so women have more opportunities and don’t stay further behind? And could you provide examples globally, of what is working that is enabling to take a more protagonist role in cities?
- What are the major challenges we are facing with our current governance systems responding to COVID-19 challenges in cities and what are the types new partnerships and collaborations we would need to promote, in order to avoid going back to a pre-COVID normality? Can we use this as an opportunity to create more innovative and participatory governance systems that empower the role of cities responding to global challenges?
Following the speakers from WIEGO and SDI, Giulia Maci (Cities Alliance) emphasisied the impact COVID-19 and the lockdown measures have had on informal communities and workers, especially women. Sharing examples from Cities Alliance's work in India, Uganda, Tunisia and Liberia, she underlined that women in informal communities started to collect data and provide knowledgewhere during the pandemic to enable quick responses of service delivery.
Fernando Casado Caneque, Director at the Centro de Alianzas para el Desarrollo, wrapped up the webinar. He distilled three main words that stood out during the discussion:
- Systemic and structural change to achieve inclusiveness, meaning women empowerment and especially the needed contribution to their economic empowerment;
- A new type of dialogue with the government on the needs of informal settlements as well as a power shift within that dialogue through collected data on new types of poverty and inequality and the missing services and actions as leverage;
- Resilience, starting a new urban agenda for cities and connecting short-term action with long-term vision.
Fernando closed the session reflecting on the 4R-Approach (Relief, Recover, Rebuild and Reset) and the task for all stakeholders to work together for inclusive urban governance.